Category Archives: Birds of Cameroon 2017/2018

Mount Kupé Bushshrike – searching for a rare bird

HalsbandwürgerOne of the top birds of the Bakossi Mountains is Serle’s Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike. This fresh morning had started almost exactly like the previous, unsuccessful birding morning. But this time we take another trail. At the very beginning, we see the remains of a camp where scientists had conducted ornithological surveys (ringing schemes, etc.). In conduct of the trip, reliable locations for Mount Kupe Bushshrike should be found. We will be playing the voice of Serle’s Bushshrike (better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike) too and perhaps lure it out. Along the way, the local guides had seen the bird at least. The bird activity is amazingly good. The Blackcap Illadopsis (Illadopsis cleaveri) or better Black-capped Illadopsis and Yellow Longbill (Macrosphenus flavicans) can be heard. The first known location of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike proves to be unproductive. We then continue along the ever-narrowing path. It is now 8:00 am and very pleasant in the forest. The sun is already shining on the first slopes. At the 2nd spot we stop to play the raucous song of Serle’s Bushshrike and maybe lure it out. The local guide had definitely seen it on this spot several times. But first we see “only” a Bar-tailed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum), in the dense foliage. Suddenly, in the far distance, a Bushshrike answers. For a while I play the tape with its rasping calls. In between, the local guide is very good at mimicking the bird’s Continue reading Mount Kupé Bushshrike – searching for a rare bird

Strenuous hike for Mount Kupé Bushshrike

SchnäpperwürgerWe had a very good breakfast at 5:30. John-Pierre and his team were busy supplying us with a lot of food. We departed at 6:00 with our Rockjumper-guide along the Max’s Trail through farm bush with palms and banana trees up on Mt Kupé. The other option is the Shrike Trail which is a famous, but also very steep and narrow trail. Fortunately the climate is more comfortable here in the forests of the Eastern Moutain Arc than in the lowlands.

The initial stretches of the Max’s Trail is even, getting steeper in the open canopy forest and becomes insanely steep inside primary forest. The last patch we did inside primary forest, we did not see especially many birds. It was a fairly quiet forest. But he continued with our heads down our way up to the altitude where the Bushshrike can be found. Short stops along the way to catch our breath yielded a few nice birds such as Grey-throated Greenbul resp. Western Mountain Greenbul (Andropadus tephrolaemus) and 2 Yellow-billed Turacos (Tauraco macrorhynchus). A nice bird was a female of a African Shrike-flycatcher (Bias flammulatus or Megabyas flammulatus),

In contrast to a year later in the Bakossi Mountains, we did not even hear Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Chlorophoneus kupeensis) at an Continue reading Strenuous hike for Mount Kupé Bushshrike

Orange-tufted Sunbird in the Cameroon Mountains

BouviernektarvogelThe hilly area with the lush greenery, the fern bushes and the tree strips gives an impression of Scotland. In addition, it is – at least for African conditions – really pleasant tempered, not to say cool.

This should be a top spot for nectar birds? My doubt is answered within minutes. The sunbirds to be seen in the further course are almost all new for the trip. First, a rather inconspicuous yellow-olive Sunbird can be seen. It appears on the edge of a bush below as in the valley. As inconspicuous as only a female of a sunbird can be. Whether it is large or small, is hard to judge in the distance. But our guide is very experienced and he announce the rare Orange-tufted Sunbird (Cinnyris bouvieri) as a newcomer for our trip list. A little later, a “colleague” of this species appears. Oh, well, it has more colors to offer. The wing shoulder or the leading edges of the wings are dazzling green and the tail dark blue at the base. Otherwise, the Continue reading Orange-tufted Sunbird in the Cameroon Mountains

The Black Scrub-Robin, a rare Western Palearctic bird

RussheckensängerDry Sahel seems to be a hostile living environment in the dry season. Nevertheless it is home to a charismatic species found across the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to the Red Sea coast of Sudan and Eritrea I Africa: the Black Bush Robin or Black Scrub-Robin (Cercotrichas podobe), an inhabitant of the hot arid subdesert and savanna with scattered shrubs or acacia bushes and groves of date palms.

During a Rockjumper-tour to bird northern Cameroon in April 2017, bird-lens.com also visited the wide Sahel belt in the northern part of Cameroon. Bird companions in the area going up to Waza NP are the Quail Plover or Lark Buttonquail (Ortyxelos meiffrenii), Scissor-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii), Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus) and the Cricket Warbler or Cricket Longtail (Spiloptila clamans).

Normally shortly after we left the car, at least one individual of a Black Scrub-Robin could be detected in or besides the low, thorny shrubbery.

The Black Bush Robin is a long-legged scrub-robin with long, graduated and usually high-cocked tail. The nominate race is greyish-black, with black rump, wings and tail. It is said to be common or very common across the majority of its range. Within this range it is generally considered resident, although short-distance migratory movements evidently occur, as the species is documented as a regular winter visitor south to Ethiopia and Continue reading The Black Scrub-Robin, a rare Western Palearctic bird

Fraser’s Sunbird with young in Campo Maan National Park/ Cameroon

Not only does the Campo Maan National Park have to offer the Gray-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas), but also a lot of other birds that you will not find in other parts of the world. One Highlight was a sequence of shots of a Fraser’s Sunbird feeding its young at the edge of Campo Maan National Park.

After we had observed successfully the shy Bare-cheeked Trogon (Apaloderma aequatoriale), the birding luck left us a bit in the course of the day trip. The heat of the day is now fully reflected on the shady jungle paths. A small group of birds, which feed on caterpillars, have white dark circles. My guide taps on a African Yellow White-eye (Zosterops senegalensis). Well, so yellow had not at all on the stomach. At first perplexed, we end up with the species determination at a Sunbird. After all, it could be the purely insectivorous Scarlet-tufted Sunbird or Fraser’s Sunbird (Deleornis fraseri). That´s it!

Fraser’s Sunbird could be beautifully watched slipping through the Continue reading Fraser’s Sunbird with young in Campo Maan National Park/ Cameroon

African Pied Hornbill in the dust bath in the Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

ElstertokoOn the way back from the Campo Maan National Park after a very successful search for the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas) we drive on the last day straight into a hollow and then look over a ridge, which makes the track in the slightly wavy national park. Before us, dust swirls in the middle of the dirt track. A group of African Pied Hornbills does not only just hang around in the adjacent trees, but also on the ground. The African Pied Hornbill (Tockus fasciatus) with their red lower bill belong to the subspecies fasciatus and they really look so beautiful. Although the track does not look too dusty, it seems to exert an uncanny attraction on the birds. Some individuals of the African Pied Hornbills are already flying away when we come over the top with our car. But one bird – probably a female – remains sitting and takes a long dusty bath. I let the driver stop the car and also turn off the engine. So, I can take some distance shots with the Canon EF400mm f / 2.8L IS II USM lapped on the side mirror. Then I let it get closer two more times. The bird does not fly off. Of course, the female of African Pied Hornbill does not let us out of her sight. First, she secures, but then she ducks deep into a hollow and throws up the dust so that the plumage is completely covered. Only when we are up to 25 meters, she flies out of the lying posture and disappears on a perch in a low tree. This day was almost the most successful birding morning of the last days.

Campo Maan is Hornbill -Country with the possibility of White-crested Hornbill (Tockus albocristatus), Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill (Tockus camurus), African Pied Hornbill (Tockus fasciatus), Piping Hornbill (Ceratogymna fistulator), Continue reading African Pied Hornbill in the dust bath in the Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics

I had been very successful in the Bakossi Mountains with the Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – also known as Serle’s Bushshrike. After an unsuccessful first day on an expedition in these Afrotropic mountains, my indispensable guides and me encountered a total of 7 individuals of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike until the end of the second day; including 4 sightings and 3 only heard individuals elsewhere in the forest.

The Bakossi Mountains are part of the so-called Cameroon Mountain Arc in the western country of Cameroon. Here an Afrotropic mountain vegetation prevails. In addition to the Mount Kupe Bushshrike other endemic species like e.g. Mount Cameroon Francolin (Francolinus camerunensis) and Bannerman’s Turaco (Tauraco bannermani) contribute to the wealth in biodiversity.

Overall, I spent nearly 15 minutes at the site where a pair of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike displayed a mating ritual (as described in the blog). Initially I shot with the Canon EF 400mm 1: 2.8L IS II USM from a Gitzo tripod. The frequent relocation of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike along with the unexpectedly low-level location of the bird inside the forest let me switch to the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM on the Canon EOS 5DS R. Despite exposure times of 1/160 sec. – later also with 1/80 sec. – the excellent image stabilizer allowed shots from the hand. A total of 183 pictures were shot on the occasion, of which 26 pictures were reasonably acceptable and a few were good enough. The image of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike Continue reading Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics

Orange Weaver near nest on Sanaga River

KönigsweberThe sun was already up and shining. The mighty Sanaga River laid in beautiful light in front of us. A small wooden boat was hired for this morning to pick us up at a sand pit at the shore of the river for a morning trip on the water. When we arrived, nobody was there. But some more minutes later we saw two guys heavily paddling a small canoe down river. We embarked the canoe only minutes later and started the trip. Large sandbanks in the middle of the river were our first stop. Eventually we made our way down the river to some more matured sandbank, which has become well vegetated islands. The banks of these islands were quite steep and the water in front so deep that the driver of the canoe could not fix the boat with his long wooden stick. Maneuvering the boat with the paddles against the currents, I saw a typical weaver nest hanging less than half a meter above water level on reed. I tried to tape the Orange Weaver (Ploceus aurantius) with its call. Only a fraction of time, a small yellow bird with an orange wash on the head and breast appeared: the male of the Orange Weaver. What a bird!

The Orange Weaver was one of the highlights on a Rockjumper trip in April 2017. But at that time we saw 3 birds on our final birding Continue reading Orange Weaver near nest on Sanaga River

Grey Pratincole at Sanaga River/ Cameroon

GraubrachschwalbeThe black eyestripe which curves down behind the eye, the light chestnut nape, and the white supercilium features a small beauty: the Grey Pratincole (Glareola cinerea). Add a light grey for the upperparts and a white rump with a black tail you are ready with the ID.

The excursion to the Sanaga River in the South Province, Cameroon was the target of my last birding part during a trip in February. We departed from the nice Hostelerie de la Sangha in Edea. At least close to Douala it is easiest here to pick up Grey Pratincole and the African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris). Additionally, Preuss’s Swallow (Hirundo preussi) and some waders were present as well. Coming from Douala we just passed the center of Edea and just after the second large bridge over the river take the first tarmac road left which goes to Dizangue. Soon it becomes a dirt road and after about 10 km from the turnoff the road comes close to the river.

The large sandbanks in the middle of the river were our first stop. We found the African Skimmers and the Grey Pratincoles immediately. Senegal Thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Little Stint (Calidris minuta), several Kentish (Snowy) Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) were present in low numbers as Continue reading Grey Pratincole at Sanaga River/ Cameroon

CAMEROON – a birding trip to south-western Cameroon

HalsbandwürgerINTRODUCTION

Having participated in a Rockjumper Trip to Cameroon with a 3-week itinerary in April 2017 I knew that Cameroon is likely the number 1 birding destination in Western Africa with a big potential of seeing more but in a 3-week itinerary in a group of 11 participants. A trip list in April of 537 (of which 393 photographed) species for 3 weeks and an increase of my global bird list by as many as 319 species to 4.449 species was not a bad result. But overall, photography, an intensive feeling for nature and sometimes silence on the birding spot came short. Ok, no wonder with the many participants plus 2 leaders, guides, porters etc..

Right at the end of the trip to Cameroon in April 2017, I had considered making a second trip – but different. This time it should be a real photography trip. As a ground agent I realized, that Jean-Pierre Somon (jeanpierre.somon@yahoo.fr) might be able to arrange the trip. I wanted to focus on 3 locations:

 

  • Bakossi Mountains for the Mt. Kupe Bushshrike.
  • Sanaga River for African Skimmer and Grey Pratincole
  • Campo Ma’an NP for the Red-headed Picathartes or Grey-necked Rockfowl.

I opted for mainly camping in Campo-Ma’an-NP as well as in the Bakossi Mountains. For the birds of the Sanaga River I wanted definitely to take a boat in the early morning. Starting point: the Continue reading CAMEROON – a birding trip to south-western Cameroon

Out of area Common Whitethroat in Cameroon

DorngrasmückeA Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) is a common warbler in the Western Palaearctic. But not in February. The same is true, if you see the Common Whitethroat in in the litoral province in southern Cameroon. On a way back from a successful hike on Mount Cameroon, we were lucky to be surprised by this Western Palaearctic visitor near the foothills of the highest mountain of Western Africa.

After having spent almost the whole on the mountain, we were hiking already back through agricultural land. In a small shrub above the fist outskirtst of the local town Buea, I became aware of a bird by its movement. The rust-brown wings with the black wing edges on a gray-brown back, a gray head and a hint of an eye ring I know but somewhere. The throat looks pure white. Yes, that must be a Whitethroat. Taking a photo takes too long. Besides, I do not want to have any trouble with the officials because we are right in front of the local prison. For that I can look in the binoculars in detail what turn out to be a female of the Whitethroat.

With the ID I am fine, but the distribution map of the Whitethroat, which is shown in the book “Birds of Western Africa” ​​by Nik Borrow Continue reading Out of area Common Whitethroat in Cameroon

Photography of Grey-necked Rockfowls between rocks in Cameroon

After having arrived in the rock-cut cathedral of giant boulders to see the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas), called also the Red-headed Picathartes, in the Campo Maan National Park in April 2017, we settle down to wait. Be patient and wait. This is the motto.

We are still pretty early. It is just 4:00 pm. I got assigned a place by the Ranger of the NP office, which seems a bit reset compared to last April. But with my Canon EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM I’m well prepared. I set up the three-legged stool and adjust the 200 with the EOS 5 DsR to the Gitzo G1588 monopod. In addition, I arrange the EOS 1 DX with the Canon EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in case the Grey-necked Rockfowl is suddenly in front of me. That had happened briefly in April; too short for the lens attached at that time. I switch both cameras on Silent Mode. But I change that after a while with the EOS 1 DX, because I think that – when I use the EOS 1 DX – it is really hardship and then noise does not matter anymore. In this case speed is more needed. Luckily, I still remember to turn on the image stabilizer on the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM. Then I am ready. I’m still undecided whether I should rather take the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM or the EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in the hand. The sitting position is ok on the stool; but sitting for hours is perhaps not recommended.

After I sorted everything I feel prepared. The nests of the Picathartes seem to be much further compared to their last visit in Continue reading Photography of Grey-necked Rockfowls between rocks in Cameroon